The Diamond M Ranch has moved to defend itself against
allegations that it’s to blame for wolves mauling and killing
its cattle for more than a decade in northeast Washington.
The family-owned operation, based in Stevens County, filed a
motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington to
take part in a lawsuit brought by three environmental
organizations against the U.S. Forest Service.
The suit claims the Forest Service idly stands by as the Diamond
M refuses to avoid conflicts with wolves in the Colville
National Forest. The Diamond M says it’s been “called out” and
wants to join the court battle.
Other lawsuits by wolf advocates in state courts against
Washington Fish and Wildlife have criticized the Diamond M.
Until now, the ranch has not defended itself in court.
“We’ve been dragged through the mud and abused with no chance to
redeem ourselves whatsoever,” Diamond M partner Len McIrvin said
Monday. “We want to at last clear our name.”
For many years, the Diamond M has been the bete
noire of some wolf advocates, who say that if it weren’t
for the ranch only a handful of wolves would have been killed by
Fish and Wildlife.
WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project and Kettle Range
Conservation Group sued the Forest Service in June, alleging the
federal agency’s indifference to Diamond M grazing practices
violates the National Forest Management Act.
Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson on Monday granted Diamond M’s
motion, allowing the ranch to participate in the lawsuit. The
ranch argues its business is at stake, an interest not shared by
the Forest Service.
“Even though they’re good people, we’re not number one in their
lawsuit,” McIrvin said.
The Diamond M has Forest Service permits to graze 736 cow-calf
pairs. The ranch has been grazing in the Colville National
Forest since 1945 and has never violated its permits, according
to the ranch’s court declaration.
Wolves began attacking the ranch’s cattle in 2008. Wolf packs
saturate the region, according to Fish and Wildlife. The
department has defended Diamond M, saying the ranch has tried to
prevent attacks with non-lethal measures.
No measure, or combination of measures, will stop all attacks,
according to the department.
The Diamond M has refused to apply for state compensation for
cattle losses. The payouts are temporary and entice ranchers to
accept an overpopulation of wolves, according to the ranch.
“Their big criticism of us is we won’t take their money,”
Diamond M was one of three ranches that had cattle attacked this
year by the Wedge wolf pack. In response, Fish and Wildlife
eliminated the pack, killing the three members.
Since then, the cattle have thrived, McIrvin said. “Those cattle
are fat and sassy and behaving like they’re suppose to.”
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